The Republic of Mauritius is an island nation in the southwestern Indian Ocean with a 330 km long coastline of which as many as 150 km are white sandy beaches.
It is about 2000 kilometers away from the coast of East Africa, and 850 kilometers from Madagascar. The climate is tropical; winters are warm and dry, and summers hot and rainy. Summer lasts for nine months, and in the winter months the temperature does not exceed 25 degrees. It is among the world’s most popular tourist destinations and tourism is developing rapidly becoming one of the main industries.
The airport we landed at from Dubai pleasantly surprised us. We were greeted by a modern airport, full of busy passengers and with many flights of the world’s most famous airlines. As they later explained to us, good connectivity and developed air traffic are extremely important because it is almost the only way to visit this remote and isolated island in the middle of the ocean and a key factor in the galloping development of tourism.
Almost the entire coast of the island is bordered by a coral reef struck by strong, large waves of the warmest ocean, forming a kind of shield from both the waves and sharks, creating calm lagoons that allow safe swimming, diving and enjoying other water spots.
The island has a population of about 1,200,000, mostly Indians and Pakistanis (67%), Creoles (28%) and Chinese (4%). The Creoles are descendants of slaves from Africa and Madagascar, brought in during French rule, and during British rule slaves were brought in from the Indian subcontinent, whose descendants make up the majority of the population today.
Members of different peoples and religions live in complete harmony and peace; Hindus, Catholics, Muslims and Buddhists.
The people of Mauritius are extremely proud of their idyllic coexistence and tolerance. A true atmosphere of harmony and peace is visible at every step, and the hosts will regularly greet you with a gentle bow, smile and hand on heart. We responded to such a wonderful gesture with a full heart, feeling an additional gratitude that we can enjoy that piece of paradise.
There are trees with beautiful flowers everywhere, and we were especially impressed by the Plumeria frangipani flower, which the hosts adore and wear it behind the ear, in wreaths around the neck or head and gladly give it to guests.
The capital, port and administrative center is Port Louis, which was founded by the French in 1737 and named in honor of King Louis XV of France.
The official languages are English and French, and Creole (similar to French) and Hindi are also spoken. Although residents prefer to use French in everyday life, they also speak English quite well.
In 1968, under the leadership of Sir Seewoosagur Ramgool, the Republic of Mauritius became independent, and its history is typical of most former colonies.
The island was discovered by the Portuguese in 1505, but remained uninhabited until the colonization of the Dutch in 1638, who named it after Prince Maurice. Under French rule since 1715, nicknamed Île de France, it was inhabited by French colonists whose plantations were cultivated by slaves from Africa (Mozambique) and Madagascar. In 1810 it was occupied by the British and returned the name Mauritius. The first parliamentary elections were held in August 1967, and independence was declared on March 12, 1968.
The Republic of Mauritius is a democratic country and one of the most developed countries in Africa with an unemployment rate of 7%.
The remnants of British colonialism can also be seen in driving on the left, which should not discourage you from renting a car and touring the island because there are few crossroads and turns and driving will not be stressful and you can explore the whole island. The British, in addition to driving on the left side, also left horse racing as a national sport, and an equestrian club was founded in Port Louis in 1912.
The first thing you will notice is that Mauritius is covered by vast fields of sugar cane, whose cultivation is the main agricultural activity, and which is surrounded by high volcanic mountains.
As much as 90% of the arable land is reed fields. Today, young people do not want to work in reed factories because it is a difficult and poorly paid job and they prefer to choose further education and better paid office jobs. Residents are very fond of sugar and consume it en masse. The rate of diabetes is about 30%, which is partly attributed to the influence of the West, Coca Cola and refined sweets.
Mauritius is also known for its tea plantations, and a tour of the oldest plantation Bios Cheri will be an unforgettable experience for all lovers of premium tea.
Coconut palm trees are everywhere and residents like to drink coconut water, just from freshly picked fruit, and we enjoyed it too.
150 years to exterminate the dodo bird
One of the symbols of the state that is also on the coat of arms of the Republic of Mauritius is the dodo bird. You will hear stories and legends about the dodo bird at every turn. They settled in Mauritius 4 million years ago. As they had no natural enemies, they lost the power to fly during evolution. They lived on earth feeding on fruit falling from trees. The dodo bird, which weighed up to 25 kilograms, was an excellent source of meat and protein, so the Portuguese, resting on an island on their way to India, hunted them and enjoyed the delicious meat. After the departure of the Portuguese, the Dutch arrived, this time establishing a real colony and bringing with them domestic animals, including pigs and even monkeys, and with the ships came the rats that later settled on the island. All these animals fed on the eggs of the dodo bird, which very quickly led to the complete extinction of that species. The last individual was killed in 1681, which means that just over 150 years were enough to completely exterminate the dodo bird.
A visit to the Pamplemousse botanical garden, which was founded in the 18th century as the garden of the house of the French consul Pierre Poivre, was a complete hit. It was later expanded and today you can see an amazing more than 650 different plants there. Over 80 species of palms, baobabs, fig trees, giant bamboos, magnolias, hibiscus, cinnamon trees grow in this enchanting place.
The most famous attraction of the garden is the pool full of large water lilies with the largest flower in the world, Victoria amazonica, whose diameter reaches 2-3 meters.
It was named Victoria Amazonica after Queen Victoria of England and originally grew in the Amazon River. It is the best time to experience it in full bloom, as well as the whole impressive garden, from December to March.
The Pamplemousse Garden evokes all the exoticism and diversity of the island’s flora. Even one of the colors of the national flag is green, which symbolizes the lush vegetation of the island, and the others are red, which symbolizes independence, blue is the color of the ocean, and yellow is a symbol of the sun.
Le Morne is a symbol of the struggle against slavery
The Le Morne Barbant rock became known in the 19th century as a refuge for runaway slaves brought to Mauritius from various parts of the world, such as Africa, Madagascar, India, and Southeast Asia. Steep and wooded cliffs provided a safe haven, and on top of it they made a small wooden settlement known as the “Marun Republic”. After slavery was banned in the British Empire, police came to Le Morne on February 1, 1835, to inform hidden slaves that they were now free people. But the terrified slaves did not understand the messengers and threw themselves off the cliff to escape slavery. Since then, the Creoles have marked this date as the Anniversary of the Abolition of Slavery.
The rock of Le Morne in oral tradition in Mauritius has become a symbol of the struggle of slaves for freedom and their victims, and therefore its cultivated landscape is inscribed on the UNESCO list of world heritage sites in Africa.
Le Morne is of volcanic origin, 556 meters high, and the trails are 3.5 km long. It is black, so if you want to conquer the top to enjoy the unrealistically beautiful view of the ocean, you have to go as early as possible because the black volcanic rock absorbs the sun’s rays and warms up very quickly. We set off at dawn and slowly advancing along the rocky and mostly unpaved trails after 2 hours of climbing reached the top. The top of the rock is almost flat, and from it the cliffs descend to a shallow lagoon. The sun was already strong and we were really tired, but the panoramic view of the Indian Ocean and Le Morne beach and the eastern part of the island will make you forget all the fatigue and heat in an instant.
Port Louis, city market
Always on trips I make sure to visit the market to enjoy the colors and scents of local vegetables and fruits. The market in the capital city of Port Louis was bustling with people, crowded stalls, small kiosks where food was prepared, and we enjoyed watching all that colorful fruits and vegetables, talking to vendors and tasting street food made up mostly of seafood and specialties in to whom the influence of Indian cuisine is most felt.
You can also enjoy excellent mint tea which is especially popular among the locals. It also offers a variety of traditional souvenirs and medicinal preparations.
There are many Hindu and Buddhist temples and they attract the eye with their beautiful colors and shapes. They are adorned with flowers and colorful ribbons, and the scent of incense spreads everywhere.
Be sure to visit the small town of Chamarel, known for its natural phenomenon, the soil in which as many as seven colors overflow and next to which two rivers flow, collapsing into a 100-meter high magnificent waterfall.
Giant turtles enjoy the vicinity, the oldest of which is as old as 250 years.
In the end, I have to agree with a sentence written a long time ago by Mark Twain: “It seems to me that Mauritius was born first and then paradise.” The turquoise color of the ocean, white sandy beaches, breathtaking sunsets, unique flora and fauna and most importantly warm and peaceful hosts are the reasons why I definitely return to this magical island, at least in my mind while dreaming in cold and rainy Zagreb. Because that is what travel is for, to remember in the routine of everyday life that the world is a magical place.